Reform social care as an investment in people, society and the economy.
Appoint a dedicated Minister for Social Care responsible for implementing the recommendations of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care and delivering an equalities and rights based adult social care reform programme.
Social care is estimated to be the eighth largest employment sector in Scotland, providing 6% of the total national workforce. A 2018 report by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) suggested that the direct and indirect economic impact in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA) of adult social care sector in Scotland is £3.4 billion.[i] This is higher than agriculture, forestry, fishing, the arts and entertainment, all which have dedicated Ministers or Cabinet Secretaries.
Appointing a Minister with explicit responsibility for social care will give it the same status as public health. This change would be in keeping with wider health and social care integration agendas and help to reduce the relative neglect of social care in comparison.
The Independent Review of Adult Social Care has made far-reaching recommendations for the future of social care in its January 2021 report.[ii] A dedicated Minister would have responsibility for implementing these recommendations to deliver an equalities and rights based reform programme.
Increase the social care budget to ensure people have meaningful choice and control over good quality support and the third sector workforce enjoy Fair Work.
COVID-19 highlighted and exacerbated many issues in Scotland’s social care sector that pre-dated the pandemic, and there has been a need for significant change and improvement for some time. For example, ‘My Support My Choice’, national research by the ALLIANCE and Self Directed Support Scotland, describes the negative impacts on people’s physical and mental health caused by unnecessary delays in the system and inadequate support.[iii]
Chronic underfunding and the current commissioning system can hinder the full enjoyment of quality, accessible social care and has a detrimental impact on disabled people, people living with long term conditions, unpaid carers, and the third sector workforce.[iv] Research conducted during COVID-19 highlighted areas that would improve job quality for social care workers, including pay, safe working environments, access to PPE, and recognition for the workforce.[v]
The rights of people who access and deliver services should be fully considered and prioritised in the context of social care budgeting.[vi] Increasing the social care budget will ensure people can access timely, adequate and appropriate support, and better pay, terms and conditions for the third sector workforce.
Remove all non-residential social care charges.
For many disabled people and people living with long term conditions, social care services are essential for their participation in society and equal enjoyment of their rights. Charges for non-residential care puts participation and rights at risk, increases the financial pressures on people accessing care, and potentially causes them to forego essential services. This can lead to people having to manage without support, deteriorating physical and mental health, (and potentially more intensive and expensive intervention later on), and unacceptable demands on family and friends to assume roles as unpaid carers.
This difficulty is compounded by the fact that there is an inconsistent approach to social care charging across the country. Local authorities can make their own decisions on charging, which leads to varying quality in the experience of social care across Scotland.
Social care should be provided on a universal basis, free at the point of use, as independent living is a right that should be afforded to all. Abolishing charges would support that right and value the qualities that disabled people and people who live with long term conditions have to offer. Charges should be paused for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, and the incoming Scottish Government should commit to ending care charging completely by the end of 2021.
Download the ALLIANCE 2021 Scottish Election manifesto at the link below.
[i] Gareth Jones, ‘Social care contributes billions to the Scottish economy’, Third Force News (5 June 2018) (this link will take you away from our website); Scottish Social Services Council, ‘Adult social care contributes £3.4bn to Scottish economy’ (2018) (this link will take you away from our website).
[v] Care workers’ pandemic experiences highlight the need for sector change (original source unpublished)